“How Far We Haven’t Come” is a twice-weekly series by Kim LaCapria, examining the sorry state of women’s issues in America in the current political climate.
As the debate over contraception (an issue women believed was sorted out sometime in the 1970’s) continues to rage on in America, a new study surrounding the morning after pill in the medical journal Pediatrics offers some sad statistics on teens’ access to the widely-available medication, even when they are legally entitled to it.
It should be noted here that this is an issue almost entirely shouldered by female teenagers. While many teens are sexually active, the repercussions of sex fall squarely (as always) on the girls, with no boys being denied emergency contraception after sex. It should also be noted that the morning after pill is not an abortion pill, and it is chemically incapable of causing a miscarriage or threatening a pregnancy. It’s sad and pathetic that nearly all the righteous anger and slut-shaming that occurs never turns a similar spotlight on male teens, and male teens are almost never held to account for having sex- but females are almost always branded irresponsible trollops for the same behavior, even in 2012.
The morning after pill (which I will again point out is the some of the worst marketing ever, in the selection of that name) is a higher dose of available birth control pills to prevent pregnancy before conception occurs. Which, if you are against abortion, you should support in order to prevent the likelihood of an abortion. But most of all, no one should be crowing about “responsibility,” first and foremost because males have been shirking theirs in the matter of teen sex since the dawn of humanity, but more so because the foresight to obtain the morning after pill and prevent and abortion or unplanned child is a responsible move in and of itself.
But when teens (who are least able generally to prepare for an adequately raise a child in society) are in need of the medication, researchers in the Pediatrics study found, one in five are unable to obtain the morning after pill. (Even Siri won’t help you here.) And it seems ignorance of federal law mandating the pill be made available to 17-year-old girls isn’t the only thing at play here, as the New York Daily News notes:
“Posing as 17-year-old girls, researchers called each drugstore requesting Plan B, the emergency contraceptive to be taken after unprotected sex, saying, “If I’m 17, is that okay?” Health.com reports. Almost 20% of the drugstores denied the “17-year-olds” access to the pill, despite the Food and Drug Administration having passed a law in 2009 requiring the “morning after” pills be made available to the young adults… When the researchers called the same pharmacies posing as doctors, only 3% of the drugstores said the over-the-counter pills weren’t available.”
Whether the pharmacies offered to tattoo scarlet letter As on the chests of the girls at no additional cost is unclear. When not taken within 12 hours of intercourse, risk of pregnancy rises 50% even when the morning after pill is available- so such ignorance or obfuscation on the part of pharmacies should be taken very seriously indeed.